Only one word is appropriate when describing the Mount Airy Girls Basketball team’s historic run the past few years: dominance. Now, another member of the Lady Bears’ will carry the legacy of Mount Airy basketball to the collegiate basketball world.
Mount Airy senior Arry Ward signed her National Letter of Intent with Pfeiffer University Monday afternoon. Ward is a three-year veteran of the Lady Bears’ basketball team and will graduate with two state championship rings.
“I’m very excited,” Ward said. “I never thought that I would’ve actually made it to play college basketball.”
In the past two years, the Lady Bears varsity squad boasts an overall record of 57-4, a conference record of 21-1, and a perfect 11-0 slate in the state playoffs.
The journey to play college basketball began many years ago for Ward. She attributes a lot of her success to having played with her teammates and coach for many years before reaching the high school level.
“We all grew up together and they made it, not easy, but less stressful,” Ward said. “I’ve been with Angela [Mayfield] since I was little. She knows my weaknesses.”
Building chemistry with her teammates made the Bears a force to be reckoned with as a team, and not just a collection of skilled individuals.
“I think that has definitely helped in building a relationship with her,” Mayfield said. “She’s always been super coachable.”
Among the girls Ward grew up playing with is North Surry standout Taylor Duncan. Ward and Duncan are cousins, best friends, former competitors, and now teammates once again. Duncan signed with the Falcons on April 19. Ward said she and Duncan dreamed of playing college basketball together, and that she is so happy their dream has come true.
Ward’s game changed when she grew to her current height of 5-foot-10. Arry served as the defensive anchor and controller of the low block for the Lady Bears. The 2017-2018 Bears team set a school record in blocks per game (3.4) and had the second most total blocks (100), in a single season. Ward contributed heavily to these records, finishing the season with 64 blocks. Only one other player had more than nine all season.
Ward admitted that confidence wasn’t really her strong suit growing up, and said that Mayfield has helped her with that tremendously.
“I think the biggest growth I’ve seen for her, other than her getting taller and becoming more of a post presence, is her mental toughness,” Mayfield said. “It’s been fun to watch that.”
It was the 2016-2017 state championship game that Ward first realized her dream of playing college basketball was feasible.
“I had stepped up really, really big in our state championship game, and I thought ‘Well, if I can do it in this game, I can do it in any game,” Ward said. “I can push myself harder and harder and someone is going to have to notice me.”
And get noticed, she did. Ward joins the list of former Mount Airy players to compete at the collegiate level thanks to years of dedication and hard work.
“My mama always said that hard work pays off, and it finally did.”
Reach Cory on Twitter @MrCoryLeeSmith